Stasi record digital reassembly project stalls

By Dylan Bushell-Embling
Thursday, 11 January, 2018

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A German project to digitally reassemble shredded records from the former East Germany’s notorious secret police the Stasi has been halted due to technical limitations.

The Stasi Records Agency has confirmed that the €8 million ($9.6 million) project to piece together millions of pieces of hand-torn paper records has been suspended because current scanning hardware is not up to the task, reports indicate.

The agency has pieced together more than 1.5 million pages of destroyed records since 1990, but the task is extremely difficult for human workers.

In an attempt to address the issue, the Fraunhofer Institute has developed an e-Puzzler scanner and algorithm designed to automate the task. It works by matching types of paper stock, typewriter fonts and the outline of torn-up pages.

But according to an FAQ on the agency’s website, the scanning of millions of fragments has proved to be an obstacle.

“The scanner is not powerful enough to digitalise hundreds of thousands of fragments over a foreseeable period in an automated manner,” it states.

“The image processing of the scanner is not optimal either. After scanning the calculations have to be adjusted for shadow formation and lack of colour stability in a time-consuming procedure in order to achieve the desired results. This makes the process more difficult.”

But if scanning technology improves, the agency is hopeful it can resume the task of assembling destroyed records this year.

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